A few weeks after the ‘Skysphere Concept’ electric cabrio, Audi has presented another concept study. The'”Grandsphere Concept’ is a 5.35-metre-long luxury saloon with an electric drive system and semi-autonomous driving functions. The German company even speaks of a “private jet for the road”.
Right from the start, Audi makes it clear that the luxury concept car is not just an exercise for Marc Lichte’s design team. “Many of the technologies and design features brought together here will be found in future production Audi models within a few years,” Audi wrote. “The Audi ‘Grandsphere Concept’ illustrates the brand’s ambition to become a pacesetter in the automotive upper echelon for technological transformation and completely new, holistic mobility offerings.”
So let’s look at the technology: the electric drive is set, after all Audi wants to sell the last combustion engine in 2033. For this reason, the “Grandsphere Concept” builds on the Premium Platform Electric or PPE. Using an existing platform for a concept study seems unusual, but in this case it makes sense – since the pure electric platform offers everything the designers needed for the “Grandsphere Concept” in terms of drive. And it still suggests something close to series production.
In the case of the study to be shown at the IAA Mobility, this includes a 120 kWh battery pack installed between the axles (wheelbase is an even three metres). The system voltage is 800 volts, and the charging power is up to 270 kW, as in the e-tron GT or Porsche Taycan. Apparently, however, the charging curve has been improved: while the Taycan and e-tron GT with their 93 kWh batteries can charge from ten to 80 per cent in 22 minutes, the “Grandsphere Concept” with 120 kWh is supposed to be able to charge from five to 80 per cent in 25 minutes – in other words, a higher charging power is available for longer.
Two electric motors, one per axle, provide the propulsion. Audi does not go into detail about the motors themselves, but the system output is said to be 530 kW. The maximum torque is given by the Ingolstadt manufacturers as 960 Nm. The all-wheel-drive, which is coordinated by software, is supposed to “implement demand-oriented and in perfect balance of driving dynamics and economy”. In one case, this means a top speed of over 200 km/h and acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h in under four seconds. On the other hand, with the focus on economy, a range of up to 700 kilometres should be possible.
With the ‘Grandsphere Concept’, however, these features are more in the background – the “private jet for the road” is supposed to be more about comfort. In addition to the quiet and vibration-free electric drive, Audi wants to enhance the passenger experience primarily through Level 4 automated driving. A steering wheel and pedals are still present, but they disappear at the touch of a button.
Then, according to Audi, the interior will transform “from the classic driver-oriented cockpit plus passenger seats into a spacious lounge”. The resulting space should allow new degrees of freedom, for communication or relaxation, work or retreat into a private sphere. As Audi chief designer Marc Lichte indicates, the best place in the car will then no longer be in the right rear, but in the front. “Where A8 and Co. have been business class up to now, we will in future offer space conditions like in first class,” the designer stated.
In terms of proportions, the Grandsphere Concept follows the basic layout of an electric saloon – long wheelbase and short overhangs. This created more space for the interior, where Lichte wanted to make particular use of the available space. It is noticeable that the side windows are unusually wide and only curve inwards in the upper third towards the roof – it is intended to improve the feeling of space. The doors opening in opposite directions are almost standard for a study these days.
The autonomous driving functions are not only intended to be an end in themselves for the study, but also to give a preview of series production here, as Audi had once already announced Level 3 for the A8, but never implemented it because of legal ramifications. Together with VW’s Cariad software unit, Audi plans to introduce the technology “in the second half of the decade”.
The Grandsphere Concept is the second of three ‘Sphere’ concept cars. Audi presented the ‘Skysphere Concept’ in Pebble Beach in August – an electric cabriolet with variable wheelbase. The third concept is to follow in 2022.
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